Elon Musk greenlit to activate Starlink for Iranians to circumvent internet blockade

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been greenlit to activate the company’s Starlink satellite internet service in Iran to allow the Iranian people greater access to the internet.

The Treasury Department announced the policy change earlier on Friday to let companies provide additional online services as the Iranian government has cut off internet access for most of the country as protests continue nationwide.

The move follows deadly protests around Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by “morality police” who questioned the way she was wearing her headscarf.

Iran has curbed access to social media networks Instagram and WhatsApp amid the protests, according to residents and internet watchdog NetBlocks.

Significant internet outages were reported across the country on Saturday, with one of the biggest mobile phone operators disrupted, leaving millions of Iranians offline.

Musk previously announced on Monday that he planned to request permission for Starlink to operate in Iran after the Treasury said it would welcome applications to support internet freedom in the country. The SpaceX CEO has now been given the green light to activate the satellite internet service to help Iranians get back online.

“We took action today to advance Internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people, issuing a General License to provide them greater access to digital communications to counter the Iranian government’s censorship,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet.

A US State Department spokesperson said the updated licence was self-executing and “anyone who meets the criteria outlined in this general license can proceed with their activities without requesting additional permissions”.